The past decade has seen a huge boom in the ways that the wider American public recognizes Asian food. Even for Middle America, that broad term, "Asian food," is no longer seen as a monolith, but rather acknowledged as the diverse range of cuisines and cultures that the continent encompasses.
This evolution of perception has also fueled the growth and diversification of Asian restaurant franchises beyond bland, greasy mall fare. While old reliables like Panda Express (don't sleep on the orange chicken) and Manchu Wok (the beef and broccoli is surprisingly tender) are certainly still thriving and not to be discounted, there are so many more Asian restaurant chains with locations in multiple states that have made an array of Asian foods much more accessible.
Since Asian-American food is its own genre, we decided to broaden the definition to include all Asian franchises and chains with a significant number of outposts in America—everything from international outposts of South Asian biriyani chains, Korean BBQ chicken spots, and famous soup dumpling restaurants to American-born pho chains and homestyle Chinese food.
Whether you're looking for an elevated but pocket-friendly fast-food franchise to grab a quick bite, an affordable sit-down restaurant to have a nice meal, or luxurious fine dining to celebrate a special occasion, here are 10 of the best Asian restaurant chains operating in America right now.
Lao Sze Chuan
Originally founded in Chicago's Chinatown, Lao Sze Chuan serves up quality Sichuan comfort food in 15 locations nationwide. Though primarily concentrated in and around the Windy City, the chain also has locations in Ohio, Texas, Connecticut, Maryland, and coming soon to Georgia! Conceptualized by Sichuan-born chef Tony Hu, Lao Sze Chuan opened to widespread acclaim in 1998 and has played an integral role in promoting regional Sichuanese cuisine in the Midwest.
The casual dining restaurant offers many Sichuanese classics like sautéed frog legs, sliced beef and tripe in chili oil, and "Never forget chicken" (mouthwateringly savory cold chicken served seasoned in spiced fragrant oil). It also offers American-Chinese classics like kung pao chicken and fried rice. The restaurant certainly lives up to its mantra, "One Style For One Dish, A Hundred Dishes Have A Hundred Different Tastes," as there is something for everybody on the expansive menu, which further includes dim sum, whole roasted peking duck, and an impressive dessert selection.
Sichuanese food is known for its distinctive balance of hot chili peppers and mouth-numbing sichuan peppercorns, and little chili peppers next to each menu item warn customers accordingly about the spice level of each dish.
Din Tai Fung
Sometimes if you do just one thing very well, it's all you need to do. Taiwanese institution Din Tai Fung has built an international empire off of perfecting soup dumplings (xiao long bao), with more than 170 global locations, including ones in California, New York, Washington, Oregon, and Nevada as well as across Asia, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. The story of Din Tai Fung is the stuff of foodie legend.
Shanxi native Bing-Yi Yang immigrated to Taiwan when he was 20 in the 1940s with little more than the clothes on his back, and eventually founded a cooking oil business (which he named Din Tai Fong by combining the names of his former employer, Hen Tai Fung, and his supplier, Din Mei Oils). Then, a downturn in the market forced him and his wife to try their hand at producing soup dumplings. They were so successful that their brand became synonymous with soup dumplings of the finest quality and eventually became the global giant.
Din Tai Fung's famous soup dumplings are made by hand and steamed to order. Workers make each tiny dumpling with exactly 18 delicate folds, and they're filled with a variety of pork, shrimp, and vegetables, as well as a frozen cube of stock that liquifies into hot savory juice that explodes in your mouth like a flavor bomb which each bite.
While you obviously have to order soup dumplings if you dine there—the Crab & Kurobuta Pork Xiao Long Bao is a top choice—the restaurant also serves a variety of shao mai, wontons, and steamed buns with vegan options, along with noodles, dessert baos, flavored teas, and other Taiwanese dishes. Menu highlights include the braised beef noodle soup and mustard greens with shredded ginger.
Bawarchi Biryanis Indian Cuisine
Biryani is the popular South Asian rice dish that India-born Bawarchi Biryanis Indian Cuisine made its mark with, but that's far from the only thing on the menu. Now the largest Indian restaurant chain in America, Bawarchi currently has 51 locations across 27 U.S. states and Canada, all serving up a range of Indian, Hyderabadi, and Indo-Chinese cuisines, along with its trademark biryanis like the signature Hyderabad Nawabi Chicken Dum Biryani.
The restaurant group encompasses four branches. Bawarchi Biryanis is the full-service restaurant, offering authentic curries and Indian dishes like Gongura Mutton and Shahi Paneer in a fine dining setting, as well as weekend specials like whole fried fish and to-go tiffins. Portions at Bawarchi Biryanis are always generous, and prices are essentially in the same wheelhouse as other mid-range Indian restaurants. Meanwhile, Bawarchi Express is a quick-service takeout concept catering to busy customers who want to bring their lunch to the office or enjoy a plateful of biryani with friends while relaxing at home.
Bawarchi Swagruha targets Indian food aficionados craving homestyle curries, savories, snacks, sweets, and pickles, and Bawarchi Biryanis & Bakery (HotBreads) offers Indian bakery items as well as a selection of Indian street foods like Pav Bhaji (potato fritters) and Vada Pav (potato burger).
Honey Pig BBQ
Few do Korean barbecue in the U.S. as consistently as Honey Pig BBQ. Founded by Korean immigrant Micky Kim in 2007 in Baltimore, Md., the small East Coast chain has expanded to have multiple locations in Virginia, Maryland, and Texas. Honey Pig is known for its large selection of grill-it-yourself meats that include everything from basics like bulgogi, galbi, and pork belly to the more adventurous picks like intestines, tripe, squid, and duck that seasoned eaters of Korean food would enjoy. The chain also recently opened a new concept in Manassas, Va., and Elliot City, Md., where customers can enjoy both tableside hotpot and Korean barbecue.
Along with the barbecue options, the restaurant serves an array of Korean dishes, from side dishes like kimchi pancakes, tteokbokki, and japchae to hearty stews and soups. Diners can choose from different barbecue meat packages as well as ordering à la carte.
When famed actor Robert De Niro initially approached chef Nobu Matsuhisa in 1988 about opening a unique high-end luxury concept, the Japanese-born cook, known for his unique blend of Asian and Peruvian flavors, declined in order to focus on building his eponymous Los Angeles restaurant. De Niro tried again in 1994, and Matsuhisa said yes—and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. Today, the vast Nobu empire includes 26 hotels and 56 restaurants.
Each restaurant offers a curated experience highlighting traditions and ingredients unique to its own region, which is incorporated into everything from the designs to the food, while maintaining Nobu's characteristics of modern luxury and Peruvian-Japanese cuisine. There are currently Nobus in nearly every major U.S. city.
Although menus vary slightly depending on the location, there are perennial crowd pleasers, such as the beef teppanyaki and Chef Matsuhisa's famous black miso cod. The restaurants also feature an expansive cocktail list and sushi and sashimi selections.
Gyu-Kaku, which is Japanese for "horn of the bull," is a restaurant chain specializing in the Japanese method of yakiniku (grilled barbecue). Here, customers grill their own pre-marinated and sliced meats on a flaming smokeless grill. Gyu-Kaku opened its first U.S. location in West Los Angeles in 2001, and there are now over 50 locations nationwide and more than 800 restaurants globally.
Originally derived from Korean barbecue before evolving into yakiniku in Japan, this form of cooking is innately communal and great for bonding over with a glass of cold Asahi beer or a sake cocktail. Gyu-Kaku offers a friendly, intimate environment with cushy booths that can comfortably fit anybody from a group of friends to a romantic date night, and the smokeless roaster means you won't have to breath in any smoke, as it is sucked away into the bottom of the table.
Gyu-kaku serves high-quality meats such as the Prime Kalbi Short Rib in Tare Sweet Soy Marinade, aged Angus beef, and the Harami Skirt Steak in Miso Marinade, as well as pork belly and bone-in kalbi, all at a reasonable price. (Saving on the labor charge is one of the perks of cooking the meat yourself.) The restaurant offers several prix-fixe selections that include meat, vegetables, and sides with a variety of sauces. These are also available à la carte or for takeout to grill in your own home. While yakiniku is clearly the star, Gyu-Kaku also offers solid bibimbap bowls and noodle dishes.
Mid-range Chinese restaurant chain P.F. Chang's opened at a time when Chinese restaurants—particularly chains—were often seen as cheap, greasy, and unhealthy places to get takeout. Co-founder Phillip Chiang saw a gap in the U.S. market for a Chinese restaurant chain that was nice enough for the average suburban family to go out to on a weekend or a special occasion and have a sit-down dinner. Along with partner Paul Fleming (whose initials are in the brand name), Chiang quickly grew the pan-Asian restaurant chain into an empire by highlighting quality ingredients, sleek decor, and well-lit, open kitchens to make the restaurants look more approachable.
The chain now includes over 213 locations in the U.S. alone, and more than 300 locations across 22 countries in total. The pan-Asian menu has a clear Chinese influence (Phillip's mother, Cecilia Chiang, owned one of the most successful Chinese restaurants in the 20th century) but also touches on a range of cuisines such as pad thai, sushi, and wagyu steak, as well as fusion dishes like flaming filet mignon wontons and an "Asian" caesar salad. Some standouts include the famous lettuce wraps and the short rib fried rice.
The "bb.q" stands for "best of the best quality"—and the South Korean fried-chicken chain has achieved massive success by living up to its name. Founded in Seoul, South Korea, in 1995 by Yoon Hong-guen, the chain now has over 3,500 locations across 57 countries, including 97 locations in the U.S. The restaurant serves over a dozen flavors of Korean-style fried chicken, as well as hearty Korean street foods like kimchi fried rice and ddeok-boki (rice and fish cakes stir-fried in sauce), and simple sides like fries, coleslaw, and rice. You can order both bone-in and boneless fried chicken in flavors like Golden Original, Honey Garlic, Gangnam Style, and Hot Mala, as well as half-and-half combos.
Each location offers bar seating and friendly, unpretentious decor well suited for chowing down on some wings and beer, as well as takeout and delivery options. One of the purported secrets to the franchise's immense success is its rigorous training programs and streamlined ownership process, which can be seen in the consistency of its food and service.
What's more comforting than a big steaming bowl of pho? Vietnamese immigrants Binh Nguyen and Phan Jiang opened the first Phở Hòa location in Santa Ana, Calif., in 1983. The enterprising couple quickly expanded with another San Jose location in 1984, and in 1986 began producing a special spice blend for pho to standardize restaurants as the chain grew. Today, the chain includes over 60 locations worldwide across the U.S., Canada, and Southeast Asia. In the early 2000s, the founders also established sister franchise Jazen Tea, which serves boba tea in a fast-casual setting. Many of the 17 Jazen Tea locations are right next to Phở Hòa.
The menu includes traditional beef pho served with options of tripe, meatballs, and flank steak; chicken pho, hot and spicy seafood pho, vegetarian pho, beef stew, and more made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients. A big bowl of pho may be enough to fill you up, but don't forget to check out the other menu items like fresh spring rolls and grilled prawns and meats over noodles or broken rice.
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue is built around the concept of the Hawaiian plate lunch, which essentially consists of a staple starch and two homey dishes. Wage laborers working in the pineapple and sugar plantations of 19th century Hawaii packed rice and leftovers to eat at work for lunch, creating a blended cuisine of Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, and American influences.
A classic plate lunch, for example, could include spam, rice, macaroni salad, and fried pork chop. Founded by Hawaiian natives Johnson Kam and Eddie Flores Jr., L&L Hawaiian Barbecue was initially a chain of drive-in restaurants serving fresh plate lunches around the Hawaiian islands. Flores and Kam brought L&L to California in 1999, and now there are over 200 L&L restaurants in the U.S. and around the world.
L&L specializes in classic plate lunches served in fast-casual settings with an island ambience. Plate lunches include hamburger patties topped with eggs and gravy, Kalua pork with cabbage, and chicken katsu, all served over rice with a side of macaroni salad.